What is a skinny jean, anyway?

Ah, the skinny jean. Love it or hate it, it’s pretty much here to stay. In the past few seasons, so many different types have been cropping up,  making it crazy confusing to decipher what’s what. Now instead of just plain old skinny jeans, we have ultra skinny, super skinny, jegging, slim straight, super slim straight, cigarette, ultra super skinny cropped cigarette denim legging, and the list goes on. So what the heck is the difference among them all, and how do you know what’s right for you?

The main thing to remember is that the names mostly have to do with fabric type and leg opening. Also keep in mind that there is no industry regulation here, so some companies just do what they think sounds good to their customer base. Much like a Theory 8 is not the same as a Gap 8, you’ll find one brand’s skinny jean is not the same as another’s. But below are general guidelines that can help you better navigate this scary skinny world and find what feels best for you.

citizens of humanity avedon jeans

Jeggings (sometimes referred to as denim leggings)

Jeggings will typically have the most stretch and the thinnest fabric feel. They are supposed to mimic the shape and fit of leggings but in a woven fabric. Sometimes you’ll see 5-pocket knit leggings labeled as jeggings, which is fine too I guess. I consider them to still be plain-old leggings, but it’s not uncommon to call them otherwise. Both Citizens of Humanity’s Avedon and Paige’s Verdugo styles represent a true jegging style.

Average leg opening: 10 to 11″

Best for: Women who love a super-snug fit and second-skin feel from waist to ankle. These also tend to be pretty comfortable since the fabric is stretchy and moves well with the body. Not good for ladies who needs some air circulating around their lower limbs.

JCrew toothpick jeans

Skinny (sometimes preceded by ‘ultra’ or ‘super’)

With a true skinny jean, the leg opening will be fitted around the ankle like in a jegging, but now you’re moving into a more substantial denim fabric. It can still have stretch, but not usually as much. J.Crew’s Toothpick jean is a good example of a classic skinny, although they choose to call it something else. See how confusing this can get?

Average leg opening: 12″

Best for: Women who want a super slim fit to the ankle, but need the feel of a proper jean.

jcrew matchstick jeans

Cigarette or Slim Straight

This may be the most annoying label. A slim straight jean is sometimes called a cigarette. What it’s supposed to mean is a slim leg that does not taper in and hug the ankle. Instead, there’s a slightly wider leg opening that falls straight from the knee. A cigarette jean is often cropped at the ankle, but it doesn’t have to be by definition. AG makes a good cigarette style, as does J.Crew with their Matchstick pair.

Average leg opening: 12.5″ to 13″

Best for: Women who don’t want to feel too constricted in jeans but still want the illusion of a skinny. I recommend this style to clients who are kind of over the whole tight skinny jeans thing but who still want to look current. It offers a more breathable solution from the knees down.

NYDJ straight leg jeans

Straight Leg

Lastly, a straight cut has a leg and calf opening that’s slim, but not fitted at all.  It’s the widest of the bunch. The leg will literally fall straight from the knee down, and the thigh cut tends to be a bit looser as well. NYDJ makes a true blue straight-leg jean. Narrow but not tight.

Average leg opening: 14″

Best for: Those deathly afraid of the skinny but who still want a slimmer leg. If you’re in bootcut recovery, this is a good first step.

Hard to keep straight, right? The good news is you don’t always have to. Each of these will achieve the same visual effect of slimming and streamlining your bottom half. So just choose which is most comfortable. That’s always what matters most anyway. Good luck!

[tweetmeme] One Response to What is a skinny jean, anyway?
  1. […] like the ever-confusing jegging issue, you will often hear these descriptions interchanged. Just keep in mind that all three look great, […]

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